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It’s Peanuts, a Snack Fan Might Say, but Is Snack Unhealthy?

Dear Dr. Roach: Dad is 84, and has been retired almost 25 years. He does little physical activity because of his gout and arthritis. He buys 60 pounds of unsalted, in-shell peanuts every two months. This means he consumes about a pound a day. This has been going on for several years. Previous crazes included four to five cans of beer per day, diet soda, pretzels and chocolate-covered mint bars. Is Dad consuming too many peanuts? Are there any side effects? — N.W.

Answer: Peanuts are a generally healthy food, containing large amounts of protein, and though it contains fat, the fat is largely the healthy, monounsaturated kind, and it is high in many nutrients.

However, too much of any single food is a problem. A pound of peanuts is approximately the entire daily caloric intake of an average-size man, which leads me to suspect he is eating little of anything else, he is gaining weight or both. Peanuts are utterly lacking in other important nutrients, such as vitamin A, vitamin B-12 and vitamin C, just to name a few near the beginning of the alphabet. Dad definitely is eating too many peanuts, and needs to have a more diverse diet.

One concern I have is that some nutritional deficiencies, especially for iron, can cause people to crave certain foods (and even non-foods like ice or dirt) and, yes, peanuts. Iron deficiency in an 84-year-old man would be concerning. Dad needs fresh fruits, vegetables and a visit to the doctor.

Dear Dr. Roach: Thirty-five years ago I contracted genital herpes. I am a designated organ donor. Will my organs infect any recipient? Should I take myself off the list? — B.A.

Answer: Don’t take yourself off the list. A history of herpes doesn’t keep you from being an organ donor. It’s a very good thing to do to donate your organs. We need more organ donors.

Dr. Roach regrets that he is unable to answer individual letters, but will incorporate them in the column whenever possible. Readers may email questions to ToYourGoodHealth@med.cornell.edu or write to P.O. Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475.